Businesses in Niagara get tech refresher course

Joe with Mom + Baby 2B App - Niagara Region Public Health













Joe Jones, of the graphic design company, Symetric, shows off the Mom + Baby 2B app created by Niagara Region Public Health. Jones led a seminar on mobile apps at the first Niagara Technology Summit at the Scotiabank Convention Centre Wednesday May 8, 2013.

When e-mails were first introduced, businesses asked how they were beneficial.

When websites started popping up, businesses again were skeptical.

Apps are now the big thing, said Symetric Production’s vice-president Joe Jones, and according to him, companies need to act.

Jones and his graphic design company were one of a dozen guest speakers at the first Niagara Technology Summit hosted by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. The one-day conference at the Scotiabank Convention Centre Wednesday was expected to attract 400 business people to help them stay on top of the ever-changing, fast-pace growth of technology.

“We’re sometimes scared of technology in Niagara,” said Jones, who presented a 45-minute seminar on mobile applications.

In January, Apple announced 40 billion apps have been downloaded since 2008 when the App Store was launched. More than 20 billion apps were downloaded in 2012 alone.

“It’s important for every business to at least look at the potential (of apps), but you have to be creative with it,” Jones said.

For example, a restaurant could develop an app that could send push notifications to mobile devices or use geotracking to see where potential customers are.

“If that person is in a 10-block radius, they could send out a message saying, ‘Hey, we see you’re in the area. Here’s a coupon for 10% off,’” Jones said.

The Niagara Region Public Health department’s Mom + Baby To Be app is a working example of an app innovation, he said. It creates a birth plan for expectant mothers, educating them on what to eat, what she’s going to encounter and keeps records of contraction intervals.

Jones said the key is having a company or organization stand out, but the initial costs aren’t cheap. A custom made app can start at $5,000.

Randy Biggs led a seminar on technology issues small businesses face.

The owner of Value Added Computer Services said it’s important businesses back up their data frequently.

“The biggest change is what we had two days to fix five years ago, we now have 15 minutes to fix,” Biggs said. “People can go to the competitor about 30 seconds later if something goes wrong at your place.”

Samir Husika, policy analyst with the chamber and an organizer of the summit, said Niagara businesses need to realize they are a part of a global market, not just a local market.

“You’re competing with businesses in China, India and South America,” he said. “There are constant changes in the tech world and you need to keep up.”